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The Reconstructivist by Emma Parrella

I take a step out the door, and my foot sinks about an inch into the grass. We’ve had night and day rain for the past week, but a man’s still got to do chores— I can already hear Bessie mooing. I pull my jacket tight around me and trudge around back to the shed. Pulling open the tall red door, I grimace at the sight in front of me.

            “Oh, Bess, you’ve fallen down again,” I rush over to her, “now just stay still, and we’ll have you right back up.” Bessie’s been a bit ill as of late, so I’ve rigged up a jack with a sort of platform that helps me put her right whenever she falls. She’s certainly a bit too heavy for me to lift on my own (though she’s been losing weight as of late) so I just thank the Lord for simple machines.  I prop her against the side of her stall, so she might have a bit of assistance for her weak legs. We used to keep her outside before she got sick, but now I’ve outfitted a stall all nice for her, hay and water and nice and warm. There’s a smell I can’t seem to do anything about, but cows don’t mind smell much. It’s hardly worth trying, but I pull out a milking stool and bucket next. As expected, Bess is bone-dry— she hasn’t given milk for a long time. She’s an old cow, though, and certainly far out of her heyday, so it’s no surprise to me. I pat her flank and smile. “Sorry ‘bout that, Bessie. Bye now.” I squelch my way over to the chicken coop, and climb inside. We’re twelve chickens strong, and they’re all fast asleep this morning. It’s funny, actually— I was sure I heard clucking, but perhaps one woke up and then fell right back asleep. I carefully pick up the first hen to check for eggs. Nothing. The next eleven hens sadly yield the same result. I nuzzle each one as I pick them up— I’ve heard that that can help them lay, and besides, I’m just much more sentimental than any self-respecting farmer ought to be. I’m not sure they’ll ever lay again, though. Truth be told, I’m beginning to suspect that whatever keeps Bess from producing is the same thing that keeps the hens from laying. Even might be what effects that terrible weakness in Fannie and the kids. Speaking of Fannie and the kids, I realize suddenly that the sun’s rather high in the sky— I must’ve spent a bit too long helping Bessie up this morning. I pull my hood over my head and slide through the mud back to the house, making sure to wipe my feet before I walk in— Fannie’d kill me if I tracked mud in.

            I pull off my work boots, and then head upstairs to wake Fannie first. She’s beautiful when she sleeps. I stand for a second, watching her, and then walk over and press my lips to her forehead.

            “Mornin’ darling,” I whisper. I lightly brush her eyes open. Fannie and the kids, like I mentioned, have been awful ill lately, and greatly weak. I have to do practically everything for them.


            “Morning, pumpkin,” she responds, and I feel just terribly sad for her— she’s so weak her lips barely even move. I help her dress, and then I pick her up bridal style to carry her down to the kitchen for breakfast. Her head falls against my chest and her eyes drop shut. I laugh.

            “C’mon, now Fannie, you’ve got to wake up!” She doesn’t move, but instead softly sighs. We reach the kitchen, and I carefully put lay her in a chair. She sags to one side, and I dive to catch her before she falls and right her.

            “Thanks, hon,” she says quietly. Fannie’s always quiet, now, ever since she got sick. It’s a wonder that I’m such a picture of health while they’re all so afflicted. Though, I think it quite possible that the Lord left me be so I could care for them. Which, of course reminds me I must be getting the kids up too now. Jack greets me with “Morning, dad!”, and his voice so bright reminds me of when he used to run around the farm with the other local boys. Fannie used to have to holler for fifteen minutes at least to get him to come in for supper. It’s sad to see him like this, even more than the others. I carry him down too, and set him next to his ma, and leave them to talk while I wake Beth.

She just groans when I wake her— sick or no, she’s a teenage girl. I carry her down, too, and then set myself to making breakfast. It’s a shame, Fannie used to make eggs like nobody else could, but her household duties fell to me when she fell sick. Doesn’t matter, anyway— there’ve been no eggs from our hens, and the general store’s been abandoned, so there’s no chance of eggs there. Luckily, no illness could make the crops stop growing, so I start water boiling to boil some potatoes. I carry on with Fanny for a couple minutes while the potatoes cook, as she seems to think I should’ve sliced and fried them. Frying isn’t good without butter, though, and even if Bessie was giving milk, I barely have time for all I have to do without churning butter as well.

The breakfast is as good as any, although you wouldn’t think it from the potatoes left on the rest of their plates. Beth has always been picky, and lately she’s just been a bit too good for boiled vegetables. Fannie’s told me she’s much too frail to eat, although I think she just doesn’t much like my cooking. Jack, I’ve no explanation for except the affliction. It’s terrible sad to see a boy so weak. When I was his age, I ate no less than four eggs for breakfast each morning, and he can’t even stomach a bit of a potato. It’s no worse than normal, though, so I set them each in their typical spots.


I carefully lift Fannie and take her to her favorite chair. It faces a window, so she can look out and see Jack play. She loves to watch out of windows. She’s always been quiet-like. Part of why I love her. I set her down gently, and then pick up Beth the same way and set her next to her mother. They’re thick as thieves– like to gossip about the other villagefolk and gad on and such. I pull out an embroidery hoop for each of them and carefully place them in their hands. Well, least, I’m careful with Fannie. Perhaps Beth is feeling a bit more frail today, or mayhaps I was a bit too harsh with her, because as I bend her wrist to give her her embroidery, her wrist snaps clean, and I’m left with three hands and her with one. She shrieks, and I go to get our medical kit.

Pulling out bandages, I reposition her wrist and pull a needle and thread from the kit. She squeals as I begin to stitch, but I steadily continue and soon the job’s done. Her blood’s dry from affliction, so it’s fairly clean. I’ve been getting better with stitches. Beth always shrieks and squirms when I have to sew her up– but then, she’s been calling me to kill spiders since she was six, so I s’pose a bit of squeamishness isn’t surprising. I wrap it with bandages to prevent infection, and then kiss her forehead and let her be.

I’ve been improving my mending. The first day of the ailment, I was terrible. I was down in the storm cellar, putting away some cured meats for the winter, when I heard a horrible commotion upstairs. I ran up, but I’d locked myself in by accident. By the time I was up, it was all quiet. I came up to the house almost levelled. I believe a whirlwind must’ve stormed through while I was down there. And there they were, all so sick. Fannie was in the kitchen, lying as if dead. Peaceful like, but a big gash on her forehead that slowly dripped red. I mended her up first. Frantically. I knew I couldn’t lose her. I dug through rubble for the medical kit. Pulling up beams, I found Beth, probably the sickest of them all. She was just red, red, red, too red to see where the injuries were. I scooped her up too, and set her by her mother, and then I stitched, big uneven stitches straight into Fannie’s forehead. The bleeding stopped, but she was sick for good. Then Beth. I ran to get water, to try and wash her off, and there was Jack. He was pinned down by a big wooden beam that’d fallen from the house. He almost looked asleep, but he was the first one to talk to me. I saw him, and I called out his name. I can still hear it, crystal clear.

“Pa! Come help!” I reckoned he’d been running in to tell his ma about the tornado when it hit the house, from the way he was facing. I lugged the beam off him, hauled some water, and then brought him in. It took hours to fix them up. I wasn’t much handy at it at first, and they were badly sick then. I put them back together, though.

I’m thinking about all of this as I pick up Jack. I always take him out to his spot last. He likes to sit on the front stoop and whittle. I always sit a couple minutes with him and whittle. I’ve rebuilt our whole home from the ground up, and I made sure to put in a good stoop for sitting and whittling. I gather knives for us both, and find two sturdy bits of wood, and start carving a whistle. He just looks at his wood. Sometimes, he tells me, he’s a bit of trouble starting a carving.


Sometimes, we talk while we sit. Other times, we just sit like this, quiet. Today’s a quiet day. I look out on rolling fields, the road that leads to a town decimated then abandoned. I look at my son. A mop of blonde, lazy blue eyes, and a wound stretching ear to forehead looking as fresh as the day he got it. It hurt him, surely, but I like it. It reminds me of the family I reconstructed from the brink of death. The blacksmith couldn’t save his family from the affliction, and neither could the cooper. But here I sit, whittling with my son, alive and well.

This author has not submitted a photo.

Hello! My name is Emma Parrella. I’m a senior in high school and I’m submitting a short story I’ve written for publishing. I’m from New Jersey, I like to read and knit, and I also like writing. I typically write fantasy and some horror, specifically short stories. I’m also not sure what else goes in a biographical statement. I hope you like my story!

Original Series

AI Journey: Little Red Riding Hood, Part 1



And as promised in Big Bad Poetry, we shall embark on our next AI journey, this time looking at Little Red Riding Hood. I had wanted to depict her as the Big Bad Wolf one and the same, although maybe not so big nor bad. But it just wasn’t happening quite as planned. All of these are based upon the AI generated art and prompts using NightCafe and then created as posters in Canva.

Little Red Riding Hood beautiful woman with red cape hiding her wolf face.  Sinister style, July 29, 2023
Sinister style, July 29, 2023

So I actually like this even better than my original vision, it is playful and even a bit serene (especially given the Sinister style). The wolf is just being a wolf. It’s quite lovely, really. But it wasn’t what I had in mind, so I revisited the idea later to see if I could get that result…

Little Red Riding Hood with wolf face, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Well, that’s not quite right…

Wolf face Little Red Riding Hood, Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023
Artistic Portrait style, Aug. 1, 2023

Yeah more of the same…

What part of wolf face don't you understand?, Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023
Hyperreal style, Aug. 1, 2023

And as you can see this is starting to devolve quickly. Join us again next week to see how this continued to develop… And if you want to catch the last AI art journey, you can find it on Haunted MTL here. To see more such devolutions into AI generated art, check out the Will the Real Jennifer Weigel Please Stand Up? blog.

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Original Creations

Big Bad poetry by Jennifer Weigel



So considering my recent revival of a wolfwere and his Lucky Days and Nightmarish Nature’s hostile humanity, it seems we are due for a visit from Little Red Riding Hood, or perhaps even Big Bad himself… Here’s a poem on the subject by Jennifer Weigel.

Over the river and through the wood
flashed the fleet-footed Red Riding Hood
on her way to her “grandmother’s” house.

When running past, who should she see
but just one of the little pigs three
cowering like but a tiny mouse.

“But my dear piggy, what do you fear?”
Red Riding Hood asked as she slunk near,
teeth hidden under a sheepish smile.


The nervous small pig looked up in fright
and decided that Red was alright,
missing the subtle clues by a mile.

“The Big Bad Wolf, that horrible beast
upon the other wee pigs did feast!”
the last little pig said with a squeal.

Red Riding Hood laughed with a great growl
and threw back her heavy long-robed cowl,
in a vast terrifying reveal.

For she was really the wolf Big Bad
hidden beneath the cape that he had
stolen from Red Riding Hood at point.

“And now I’ve caught you too my pretty
and surely t’wouldn’t be a pity
if I gobbled you up in this joint.”


T’was then the wee pig leapt to his feet
And cried, “Big Bad Wolf, I shall defeat,
for I am no ordinary swine!”

The little pig also wore sheep’s clothes
spun in spells every woodland witch knows;
Old Granny herself was quite divine.

“Now give me back my granddaughter’s cape,
before I grab you by your ruffed nape
and send you pig-squealing down the road…”

The wolf dropped the cape and ran, that cur,
but Granny was swifter and hexed his fur
and the wolf she turned into a toad.

Thus the moral of this story goes,
when in the woods, no one really knows
what sheepish sheep’s clothing is a ruse
that big bad wolves and old witches use.


So this is actually an intro to my next AI art journey with NightCafe which developed from me not getting the results I wanted (Little Red Riding Hood herself as a wolf). Here’s a preview with Eric’s versions as he is much more literal in his prompting than I am, but where’s the fun in that? 😉

Prompts (from left to right) in Dark Fantasy style, executed Aug. 1, 2023:

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak

Bipedal wolf in Red Riding Hood’s cloak close up portrait

Bipedal wolf in red cloak close up portrait

Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.
Portrait of myself with dark makeup and crow skull headdress, backlit by the sun.

Feel free to check out more of Jennifer Weigel’s work here on Haunted MTL or on her writing, fine art, and conceptual projects websites.

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Original Series

Nightmarish Nature: Horrifying Humans



So we’re going out on a limb here in this segment of Nightmarish Nature and exploring one of the most terrifying, most dangerous, most impactful species to walk this planet. I’m talking about us of course. Sure, as humans, we may not seem all that horrific to ourselves, but to many other creatures we have been a force of nightmares.

Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans male as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

Why are we terrifying?

Humans are among those species that engage in massive modifications to our environment to serve our needs, like beavers who dam rivers, elephants who eat all of the new growth scrub to keep the savannahs tree-free, and so on. Yeah, all creatures have some impact on their surroundings, but some take it up a notch, and we do so at an order of magnitude higher still. And we have gotten so good at it that we have managed to exist and thrive in places that would otherwise be inhospitable. We are outwardly adaptive and opportunistic to the point of being exploitative. We are the apex predators now.

Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Sabertooth cowering as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

We have forced many creatures into extinction, intentionally and not, and have sped up these effects enormously. The National Audobon Society chose the egret as its symbol after it made a comeback from being hunted to near extinction, and it was one of the lucky ones. Many weren’t so lucky, especially if they came in direct conflict with humans, such as wolves and the big cats who were in direct competition, or those who were really specialized in really specific niche circumstances that we pushed out of the way. And this is in only a very very limited scope of our earth’s history, and has since been even more ramped up with industrialization.

Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Humans female as drawn by Jennifer Weigel

But humans aren’t all bad are we?

Depends on who you ask… We have created all sorts of incredible opportunities for some species too. Take mice for example. And coyotes. And kudzu. And a whole host of animals whom we’ve domesticated, some of whom wouldn’t have continued to exist otherwise or certainly wouldn’t exist in anything resembling their current forms. And the most massive extinctions occurred long before our arrival, when the earth was still forming and underwent rapid catastrophic changes and swings, decimating critters as they were trying to get a foothold. Nothing is constant except for change; that has always been true.

Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel
Wolf begging for cheezborger drawn by Jennifer Weigel

So it isn’t my goal to get all eco-con​scious and environmentalist here. Just that I feel if we are going to explore some of the more terrifying aspects of nature, we need to look in the mirror. Because if a consensus were taken right here, right now of all living beings globally as to what is among the most terrifying creatures among us, I’m sure we’d appear on that list.

If you enjoyed this closer-than-kissing-cousins segment of Nightmarish Nature on Horrifying Humans, please check out past segments:

Vampires Among Us

Perilous Parenting


Freaky Fungus

Worrisome Wasps


Terrifying Tardigrades

Reindeer Give Pause


Komodo Dragons

Zombie Snails

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